Melton Mowbray is clearly one of the ‘cheese capitals’ of Britain (as well as being home to the famous Pork Pie!). It is in this delightful Rutland town’s cattle market that the annual Artisan Cheese Festival is held each summer, organised by the brilliant Matthew O’Callaghan. Prior to the weekend festival there is the serious matter of judging the Artisan Cheese Awards, with entries only open to the smaller cheesemakers of Britain and Ireland. The festival sees the announcement of the long awaited results of this ever popular competition. Such is the interest that some of the country’s top cheesemakers make the journey to Melton Mowbray themselves, proving a great opportunity to meet them in person and hear all about their wonderful cheeses.
This year I managed to visit again and had the total pleasure of meeting and chatting with some old friends and some new ones. Jamie Montgomery (Montgomery’s Cheddar), Joe Schneider (Stichelton), Graham Kirkham (Kirkham’s Lancashire), Tim Jones (Lincolnshire Poacher), Mary Davenport (Cote Hill), Roger Longman (White Lake), Phil Stansfield (Cornish Cheese Co) were among the establishment ‘nobility’ of British cheesemakers. Amongst the newer ‘kids on the block’ making some spectacular new cheeses were Gary Bradshaw (Cobblers Nibble), James Hill (Marlow Cheese), John Brown (Cheese on the Wey), John Sugden (St Ives Cheese), Steve Reid (Northampton Cheese) and many others representing the new wave of cheeses.
Running over two days with many other food and drink producers selling some fascinating products (Raclette, Cheese Toasties, Craft Beers, Caribbean Cakes, Honey, Doughnuts, Artisan Coffee) this really is a festival not to be missed. Dates for 2024 haven’t been announced yet but keep your eyes peeled – it’s great!